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Get Me Out of the Office!

Sometimes you just need to grab your laptop, a cozy sweater and a bottle of wine, and get the heck out of dodge!

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That’s just what we’ve done. My lovely ladies and I spent a few days last week at a cottage out on Lake Winnipeg, taking time away from the office to…well honestly…get some work done! Some things just don’t seem to accomplished when you’re sitting at your desk downtown where the ‘dings’ of your email and phone are never ending. So we decided to pack our bags and get out into nature for a few days.

 

Road Trip!

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We so often talk about how we can improve our clients’ spaces by integrating more daylight, by bringing that natural environment into their living or working spaces, and by really just connecting them to nature. Honestly, these past few days have been a testament to these intentions. The moment we arrived at our cozy little cottage, and stepped out onto the dock, we were greeted with the most beautiful view of the lake and forest. We took a deep breath of fresh, crisp, November air and all of a sudden, we were one with nature.

So why do we as humans want…no, CRAVE this connection to the outdoors? Well, essentially we’re biologically pre-programmed to seek connections with the outdoors and other forms of life. It’s intuitive. It’s how we started out on this planet and it’s how we were meant to live. Here are a few benefits from connecting with nature…

  1. people are healthier, happier and perhaps even smarter and more creative
  2. children with ADD, asthma, obesity and stress feel positive effects
  3. adults in workplaces connected to nature are more productive, healthy and creative
  4. patients in hospitals that have a view to the outdoors have faster healing times

These few days away, sitting on the edge of the water, surrounded by the beauty of nature, has sure made us a lot more relaxed, focused, creative and seriously productive!

Other than work, we had loads of fun just getting away from our daily grind. Took walks in the woods (I totally thought Tracy was taking us out there to … maybe… streamline the company…). Tried to make a fire…with wet logs…and an old issue of Cottage Life from 2004. It did not go well. Don’t ask Carrie. Or ask where the bottle of paint thinner ended up.

Here are some of the highlights of the 1st Annual S3 Retreat!

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Get outdoors people, it’s good for the soul!

Until the next S3 Retreat!

Elaina

Elaina S3

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Smart Sustainable Structures

Structures? Yes, I said structures. There’s yet another ‘S’ to our story. At S3 we don’t like being bored, so we’re constantly adding to our repertoire of services. In our last blog post, Elaina introduced our Lighting Design Department. Today I’ll be unveiling S3 Design Build.

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Smart & sustainable is our mantra at S3. However, our ideas and designs are only relevant if they actually come to fruition. Finding sustainably focused builders can prove to be challenging. It’s at the junction where ideas meet reality that projects can fall off the rails, or take a different turn.

So our team began the journey of seeking out like-minded builders and trades of all sorts. I’m happy to say we’ve found a number of kindred spirits. And wouldn’t you know it, one individual in particular became a regular face around the S3 office. He’s a burly, bearded character with an excitement about sustainable structures that’s comparable to a kid on Christmas morning. Let me introduce Sean. Sean has been in the building industry for 15 years and currently works as a site superintendent for a large commercial construction company. For the past 18 months we’ve been strategizing, planning and dreaming about what a sustainable design / build / development company could look like and I’m thrilled to say it looks pretty awesome.

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What will be our focus?

You guessed it… Smart, Sustainable Structures.

What does that mean?

  • Looking at alternative building materials and how they can be used in practical, energy efficient and cost effective ways.
  • Working with conventional materials in new ways to achieve greater energy efficiency.
  • Designing with climate, site orientation, practicality and aesthetic interest at the forefront, not as an afterthought.
  • Not trying to compete in the conventional market, but creating a new market.

Why does this get us excited?

Because all of us at S3 dream about living, working and playing in environments that are unique, smart and cool… and we believe that there are people beyond us who share this dream also.

What’s up and coming?

Shipping containers anyone???

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Stay tuned for an upcoming blog to find out more.

Tracy

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Ron Finley is a Gardening Gangsta!

As we are stuck in our winter “wonderland”, I find myself daydreaming of spring, summer, and my renovation plans for my home. The 1st goal for spring will be to build a fence for my backyard and create a private oasis where I can enjoy the sun and relax in the great outdoors.  The push for the fence is also due to my desire to add a fury friend to our family!

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As I think about the layout which will include a small grassed area, a garden, and a patio, I’m reminded of a fantastic speaker I had the pleasure of listening to at Greenbuild this past November, Ron Finley.

In his own words, is a Gardening Gangsta! He describes gardening as sexy and has dreams of community rejuvenation through developing edible gardens. Ron’s first project was driven by the lack of fresh produce in his neighborhood. What was the next best thing (or perhaps just the BEST thing? He set forth to build his first garden on the curbside of his home.  This action got him into trouble with his local authorities, but through perseverance and collaboration with other environmentalists he was able to continue his efforts to create edible gardens in the desert spaces of his community.

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More important than his efforts is the impact he has made on his community. He has become a leader and educator of guerilla gardening by teaching the youth of the community about ways to cultivate, harvest, and maintain a healthy & nutritious garden.

Now that IS sexy!

So what am I going to take from his lessons?

1)      Find enjoyment in cultivating an edible landscape

2)     Share my success with my neighbors, friends & family

3)     Create a space that inspires others to do the same

I also have a very small space to achieve my entire plan so here are a couple of ideas that I’m going to implement to achieve my backyard oasis.

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Hanging Herb Garden

Reusing tin cans & planting a variety of herbs. I like how this idea let’s you use vertical space to gain more garden space.

Re-purposing the existing fence

We have a very small fence that exists right now. My plan is to reuse the boards to build my new outdoor sectional.  I love the image below which uses old palettes to achieve the same goal. My biggest hurdle will be learning how to manage the skill saw.

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Use tall trees & scrubs around the perimeter of the yard so I feel completely enclosed in my green space. Use different floor materials to create transitions between each section of the backyard

Now I just have to wait for the snow to melt!

Carrie

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Make your White Christmas a ‘Greener’ one!

Are you looking to make your holidays a little more friendly to the environment? Well, I’ve got a few great tips for you to make your home a little ‘greener‘ this year!

 

CHRISTMAS TREES

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Well friends, it seems that factory-farmed trees covered in pesticides, located miles away from civilization, chopped down every Christmas & transported into major cities might still be better for the environment than having an artificial one which uses terribly unsustainable practices to produce.

Fret not, there are some cool alternatives to the traditional tree:

1. Rented Trees:

Say wha?? Yup, rented! If you live on the West Coast, there are a couple of great Canadian companies that offer a rental service for potted trees for the holidays. They deliver a potted Christmas tree to your home, you get to enjoy the ‘live-liness‘ of a real tree, and when you’re done, they come and take it back to either plant it in nature, or store it in a greenhouse for rental the following year. Cool eh?? If you’re in B.C. check out Evergrow Live Tree Rentals or Carbonsync. Anyone know of anything like that here in Winnipeg? If not, I hope this trend makes its way here soon!

2. Potted Herbs:

Ever think of using some of your hearty potted herbs as a Christmas tree? Grab that pot of Rosemary and add a few handmade decorations to make it more festive. Just think of the lovely natural fragrance you’d get out if it too!

3. Alternative ‘Trees’:

I think I can speak for all designers when I say, we all thrive on ‘Thinking Outside the Box‘! We’ve looked around and found some pretty creative ideas some people have done to replace their traditional holiday foliage.

Alternative Christmas Trees

 

SAVING ENERGY

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Ok, this is the big one! This is a topic that all of us here love to discuss with our clients when we’re planning their home, so why not bring it up specifically for the holidays. Seems like the perfect time to look into alternative solutions to lowering energy bills.

1. LEDs:

Well, you’ve all heard it before, but LEDs are definitely the way to go at Christmas. They use less electricity & last so much longer. It’s kind of a no-brainer now that they are made in a wide variety of colour temperatures (ie. you can get that warm candle glow from days of yore).

And speaking of candles, have you seen the new LED flicker candles? They actually look pretty good and are far less messy than melty wax ones! They’re also less of a fire hazard with the kids, the pets, or even crazy uncle Bert who gets into the eggnog a little too early in the evening. In addition to the safety aspect, they are much better for your indoor air quality. Look into them! If you’re a traditionalist and would like a wick burning over the holidays, look into more sustainable options like those made from Beeswax. Wolesely Wicks here in Winnipeg is a great place to visit!

2. Exterior Decorations:

Instead of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ or Clark Griswold, think twice about decking your house with a million lights that could in actuality facilitate an airport runway. There is much wisdom to the old adage, Less is More but if you must get a little crazy with the outdoor decorations, perhaps omit the inflatable Santa operated by a motor using constant electricity. Listen, we don’t want to ‘snow’ on anyone’s parade, it’s just a little food for thought when planning your exterior this year. Don’t take our word for it…just check out your energy bills post-holiday (along with all the credit card bills) 😉

 

ALTERNATIVE + NATURAL DECORATIONS

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Yes!! This is the topic I love the most!

Finding creative, alternative ideas to decorate over the holidays. Best way to go about it: think about using natural materials, or ones that can be reused in many different ways over rest of the year. As a child, did you ever go out and decorate a tree in the forest or one in your back yard with strings of bird-feed and orange slices? I do, and I did, and it was one of the most memorable times I can recall over the holidays. So instead of reaching for that can of fake snow spray or plastic garland, step and back think what else can be done.

  • Stringing twinkle (LED) lights around a tomato cage (from your summer gardening of course)
  • Using pinecones to make garland, as filler for vases, or simply as tree decorations
  • Drawing your decorations on a chalkboard wall
  • Wrapping gifts with recycled paper from books, newspaper, or even with butcher paper & twine
  • Using plants, branches, fruit slices, cinnamon sticks and cloves make wreaths (and reap in the aromatic benefits)

Check out some of these beautiful projects I found on my favourite ‘everything’ site, Pinterest! It’s all on the S3 ‘Green Christmas Board’ :

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I hope I’ve given you some inspiration this holiday season to make some more environmentally friendly choices! It’s really not that hard, it just might take a little more effort. Well worth it in the end, I say.

Have you got some great ideas on how to spend a green Christmas? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays!

Elaina

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S3 at Greenbuild 2013

Well friends, I have to say, Greenbuild 2013 was so amazing! The four of us spent 3 days learning about sustainable design and we’re beyond inspired!

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In my opinion (and I’m sure the other girls here would agree), the education sessions were by far the most interesting & thought-provoking part of this conference. So many sessions were offered in so many different sectors of sustainability. For some, we paired up & enjoyed together, and for others we went off on our own where the topics peaked our interest.

What Did We Learn:

  • Biophilia: Moving from Theory to Reality
  • After the Storm: Recovering (Materials) from a Natural Disaster
  • Motivating Green Building Around the World
  • The Light Stuff: Energy-efficient Lighting for a Healing Environment
  • Power & Responsibility: Visual Stories as Agents of Change
  • Introducing Passive House Standard– A Valuable LEED Partner
  • Dematerializing the Built Environment: In Theory & Practice
  • Sustainable Design: Can Performance and Beauty Co-Exist?
  • Marketing Green Building: A Competitive Advantage Without Greenwash
  • Net-Zero-Energy Affordable Housing, Philly Style!

Stayed tuned for upcoming blog posts that will feature some of these topics in details. 

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Expo Hall

The Expo Hall was also pretty great! A huge room filled with all the industry-leading products and technologies in sustainable building just begging to be explored.

Some of our favourites include (but are definitely not limited to):

Expo Products (1)Eco-Walls  |  Shaw Carpet  |  FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)

Expo Products (3)Interface Flooring  |  Finium (Repurposed Wood Panels)  |  Hemcrete

Expo Products (2)Green Roofs  |  Davies Office (Furniture Renewal)  |  Boomerang (Recycled) Paint

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Apart from the sessions and the expo hall, we were lucky enough to attend an evening at the Liacouras Centre, at Temple University to hear Hilary Clinton speak on her thoughts on Greenbuild and sustainability around the world. She was great and presented a very inspirational speech.

This really is a powerful movement and I think I speak for all of us here at S3 when I say that we are truly honoured to be a part of it.

As an added bonus to the night, we got to hear a special concert by Bon Jovi, who in their own right, are great philanthropists and advocates of sustainability as well.

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And lastly, as part of Greenbuild, we had the pleasure of taking a couple of tours around Philadelphia to see what they have to offer in terms of sustainable design.

I, myself, took the Lighting & Garden Design Tour along the World-Class Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I visited many of the art galleries that line this famous strip, including The Barnes Foundation, The Rodin Museum as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art (you know the steps from the Rocky movies…ya, that one!). I also got to see the Fairmount Water Works as well as get a first-hand tour of Philadelphia’s noted Boathouse Row.

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Annie and Tracy took a tour called, Sustainable Urban Living at Any Age and were lucky enough to visit 4 of Philadelphia’s LEED certified homes from 4 different neighbourhoods. Hazel House, a LEED Platinum residence, the McBee-Sheeks Residence in Powelton Village, a LEED Platinum Pine Street Residence near Fitler Square, and lastly the Todd Residence in Queen Village (where, incidentally, is the neighbourhood in which we stayed while in Philadelphia).

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Again, stay tuned for some detailed blog posts on these tours & topics.

For now, I think I’ve chatted enough about our wonderful experience at Greenbuild Philadelphia 2013. Already looking forward to next year’s conference at Greenbuild 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana!

Have any questions or thoughts on our trip, we’d love to hear from you! As you can tell, we love chatting sustainability!

Elaina

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